ACOSS and Greens call for $95 Newstart rise
31 January 2020 at 4:44 pm
Anti-poverty advocates previously called for a $75 a week Newstart increase
The Australian Council of Social Service has updated its demand to raise Newstart because of the rising cost of living pressures, with the group now calling for a $95 a week raise to the payment.
This revised figure was calculated using a wage index based on new research from UNSW’s Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC), which ACOSS also used to calculate its previous demand for a $75 a week payment rise.
This call has already been embraced by The Greens, who say the federal government’s continued failure to act has meant those on Newstart are falling even further behind.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said the decision was made in light of steep increases in the cost of housing and other essentials.
“Raising the rate by $95 per week will get Newstart working by allowing people to cover the basics, instead of being forced to skip meals, sleep rough and miss medication, which makes finding paid work even harder,” Goldie said.
“The benefits of increasing Newstart would be felt in the economy immediately, particularly in regional and rural areas, including those affected by fires.”
The campaign to raise Newstart has a long and complex history, but public pressure to raise the unemployment benefit payment has increased in recent months.
Last July, the Senate launched an inquiry into the rate of Newstart – which is currently around $40 a day.
The inquiry, due to report in March, has heard stories of Newstart recipients losing their homes, skipping meals, self-harming, and being forced to ration their insulin.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has been a long-time advocate for raising Newstart, having introduced several bills to raise the rate by $75 a week.
She confirmed that The Greens had also shifted their position to support a $95 a week Newstart raise.
“The government’s continued failure to act has meant that those trying to survive on Newstart are falling even further behind, prompting ACOSS to call for a higher increase in Newstart. This is desperately needed,” Siewert told Pro Bono News.
“The Greens support ACOSS’s calls for an increase to Newstart beyond $75 and think the $95 recommended by ACOSS is more realistic.”
Newstart has not increased in real terms since 1994.
Dr Bruce Bradbury from the SPRC said this needed to change.
“Over the past two decades, Newstart has steadily fallen relative to both other income support payments and wages,” Bradbury said.
“Currently, single adult Newstart recipients receive only $284 per week, which is only 61 per cent of the amount received by single pensioners and 38 per cent of the minimum wage.”